Saturn Devouring His Son is the name given to a painting by Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The work is one of the 14 Black Paintings that Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house sometime 1001 paintings you must see before you die pdf 1819 and 1823. It was transferred to canvas after Goya’s death and has since been held in the Museo del Prado in Madrid.
It was a two-story house which was named after a previous occupant who had been deaf, although the name was fitting for Goya too, who had been left deaf after contracting a fever in 1792. Between 1819 and 1823, when he left the house to move to Bordeaux, Goya produced a series of 14 works, which he painted with oils directly onto the walls of the house. At the age of 73, and having survived two life-threatening illnesses, Goya was likely to have been concerned with his own mortality, and was increasingly embittered by the civil strife occurring in Spain.
Although he initially decorated the rooms of the house with more inspiring images, in time he overpainted them all with the intense haunting pictures known today as the Black Paintings. Uncommissioned and never meant for public display, these pictures reflect his darkening mood with some intense scenes of malevolence and conflict.
Saturn Devouring His Son, a disturbing portrait of the titan Saturn consuming one of his children, was one of six works with which Goya decorated the dining room. Saturn would overthrow him, just as he had overthrown his father, Caelus. To prevent this, Saturn ate his children moments after each was born. His wife Ops eventually hid his third son, Jupiter, on the island of Crete, deceiving Saturn by offering a stone wrapped in swaddling in his place.
Jupiter eventually supplanted his father just as the prophecy had predicted. Saturn, Saturn Devouring One of His Sons, Saturn Devouring his Children or by the Spanish names Saturno devorando a su hijo or Saturno devorando a un hijo.
Goya depicts Saturn feasting upon one of his sons. His child’s head and part of the left arm have already been consumed. The right arm has probably been eaten too, though it could be folded in front of the body and held in place by Saturn’s thumbs. The only other brightness in the picture comes from the white flesh, the red blood of the corpse, the white knuckles of Saturn as he digs his fingers into the back of the body.
It may even have been overpainted deliberately before the picture was put on public display. Various interpretations of the meaning of the picture have been offered: the conflict between youth and old age, time as the devourer of all things, the wrath of God and an allegory of the situation in Spain, where the fatherland consumed its own children in wars and revolution. It has been said that the painting is “essential to our understanding of the human condition in modern times, just as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling is essential to understanding the tenor of the 16th century”.
Goya may have been inspired by Peter Paul Rubens’ 1636 picture of the same name. Rubens’ painting, also held at the Museo del Prado, is a brighter, more conventional treatment of the myth: his Saturn exhibits less of the cannibalistic ferocity portrayed in Goya’s rendition. Goya’s vision, on the other hand, shows a man driven mad by the act of killing his own son. In addition, the body of the son in Goya’s picture is that of an adult, not the helpless baby depicted by Rubens.
Goya had produced a chalk drawing of the same subject in 1796-7 that was closer in tone to Rubens’ work: it showed a Saturn similar in appearance to that of Rubens’, daintily biting on the leg of one of his sons while he holds another like a leg of chicken, with none of the gore or madness of the later work. Goya scholar Fred Licht has raised doubts regarding the traditional title however, noting that the classical iconographical attributes associated with Saturn are absent from the painting, and the body of the smaller figure does not resemble that of an infant. The rounded buttocks and wide hips of the headless corpse has also called into question the identification of this figure as a male.